Press Review

Iraq, photo: CTK

A number of high-profile international stories appear on the front pages of the Czech papers - plans for the reconstruction of Iraq, which the Czech Republic is involved in, growing concern and tightened safety measures in connection with the spread of SARS and the summit in Brussels at which the leaders of France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg agreed to create a multi-national defence force headquarters to improve "command and control capabilities" for EU-led military operations. There is much speculation as to how far Europe will take the common defence policy and what that would mean for NATO.

Iraq, photo: CTK
A number of high-profile international stories appear on the front pages of the Czech papers - plans for the reconstruction of Iraq, which the Czech Republic is involved in, growing concern and tightened safety measures in connection with the spread of SARS and the summit in Brussels at which the leaders of France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg agreed to create a multi-national defence force headquarters to improve "command and control capabilities" for EU-led military operations. There is much speculation as to how far Europe will take the common defence policy and what that would mean for NATO.

On the domestic front, the papers report on information minister Vladimir Mlynar's decision to give up his seat in parliament, as he promised to do before he joined the cabinet. Lidove Noviny applauds the minister's decision, and urges other politicians who are juggling several posts and functions to follow his lead. "Minister or deputy?" is the headline in today's Lidove Noviny which points out that juggling several functions is a common Czech trait, no matter how much it affects performance.

Parliamentary deputies have certainly not received good publicity in today's papers with Lidove Noviny publishing a list of those who have been chosen - in a lottery - to occupy newly reconstructed luxury flats in Prague's prestigious Nerudova street - a few minutes' walk away from the parliament building.

Rent-free luxury housing for politicians is unheard of in the Western world, the paper notes, pointing out that with the salaries they get Czech deputies could certainly afford to pay rent like the rest of us.

The government's pro-EU campaign is due to start on May 1st, and Mlada Fronta Dnes has devoted a full page to how it is being conducted. A parade of popular Czech actors, singers and sports people will tell viewers why they will vote for EU membership in the June referendum. And people from EU member states will tell viewers what it is like living in the EU.

What viewers won't know - unless they read today's Mlada Fronta Dnes - is that computer specialist James O'Reilly from Dublin, the Greek coffee-house owner or the Finnish civil servant, who give a most persuasive performance, do not actually exist. It is advertising like any other, says the head of the promotion campaign Jana Adamcova.

Is this a scam on TV viewers? Jiri Mikes, head of the Association of Advertising Agencies thinks not. "People see fictitious doctors in TV ads every day. In this case, the goal was to pick a typical representative of the given EU member state, with a typical name expressing the general sentiments of that country with regard to EU membership, Mikes told the paper.

Coincidentally, on May 1st Czech TV is planning a special event of its own - and in this case viewers will see the real thing. For 24 hours channel two of Czech public TV will broadcast a compilation of archived communist era programmes dating back to 1953.

This includes footage of a Stalinist-era Soviet specialist advising his Czech comrades on how to best milk a billy-goat, some of Leonid Breznev's addresses during which he is seen to be slightly tipsy and inarticulate, and "the masses" at May day-parades cheering for "increased productivity, communism and world peace". "It's funny, but also very sad, the author of this special May Day programme told Mlada Fronta Dnes.